Tattoo It On Your Forehead

4 01 2011

Here’s a thoughtful post by Dmitri Rotov on how we have come to understand – or rather, “know” – what happened to Confederate general Gustavus W. Smith after he took command of the army outside of Richmond in June 1862.  The opening sentence says it all:

Common knowledge is the curse of Civil War history.

Post title courtesy of Jeffrey [The Big] Lebowski.





Pelham Monument

10 12 2008

john-pelham

Before John Pelham (left) became “Gallant”, before he gained fame – and death, in March 1863 –  at the head of JEB Stuart’s horse artillery, he was a lieutenant in Capt. E. G. Alburtis’s Wise Artillery, attached to Col. Francis Bartow’s brigade of Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah at First Bull Run.  By all indications, Capt. Alburtis was not with the battery on the day of the battle, and it was commanded by Pelham.  He wrote about his experience at the battle in this letter.

Here’s something interesting – below is the monument to Pelham in Anniston, AL (see here for more photos of the monument).  Anniston didn’t exist until after the war, but Pelham was born and is buried in nearby Jacksonville, AL. According to this site, the monument was erected on Quintard Ave in 1905.  There appear to be lots of things in Anniston named for the Pelham family.  What makes this so interesting to me is the fact that Anniston’s founder, who named the town for his daughter-in-law, Annie – Annie’s Town – Anniston, was none other than Daniel Tyler, Federal division commander at First Bull Run, likely one of the men Pelham was shooting at that day.

pelham-monument

UPDATE 12/11/2008: Being a slave to sounds, I was struck by the name of the street on which the Pelham monument sits.  Charles Todd Quintard was the chaplain of the First Tennessee Infantry (of which Sam Watkins’ Co. Aytch was a part), and later was Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee.  So, I sent the following to friend Sam Elliott – no, not the actor famous for his role as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, but rather the author of Soldier of Tennessee and editor of Doctor Quintard, Chaplain C.S.A. and Second Bishop of Tennessee:

Quick question: Anniston, AL was founded after the war by former US BG Daniel Tyler.  There is a monument to John Pelham (from nearby Jacksonville) in Anniston, located on Quintard Ave.  Do you have any idea if this street, the “main drag” of Anniston, was named for Doctor Quintard?

To which Sam quickly replied:

To answer your question, I’ve always thought so. 

Wikipedia says of Anniston:     “In 1872, Anniston’s Woodstock Iron Company organized by Samuel Noble and Union Gen. Daniel Tyler (1799-1882), rebuilt a furnace on a much larger scale, as well as a planned community.”

According to Quintard, Noble was a “very dear friend” and, although a northerner, was with Quintard on Easter Sunday, 1865 in Columbus, Ga. when James Wilson and his 12,000 Spencer-armed Yankee cavalrymen stormed the city, and he actually secured a guard for Quintard and his family.  Quintard said Noble was in the area to secure cotton for the Federal government, which I thought was odd, since the area was still under CS control. 

Sam followed that up with this treat: 

Harry, here’s a freebie from Google on my Quintard book: 

Thanks, Sam!





The Blog Lebowski

16 11 2008

I’ve been thinking about some recent discussions bouncing around on several blogs regarding the form “information compilation” blogs should take.  Whenever we start speaking in terms of should instead of could I get a little nervous.  Now, I believe that certain basic tenets need to be followed when dealing with history, including digital history – proper citation and attribution especially.  But when I hear some suggest that there necessarily be interpretation and analysis, I have to wonder.  Of course, narrative form history requires an interpretive framework that is the product of the author’s analysis (see here).  But do we want to constrain ourselves with the narrative format when we don’t have to?

im-a-lebowskiIn a comment I made to this post, I mentioned that I think of the digital history portion of this blog, the Bull Run Resources, as being like the Buddha: not the moon, but the finger pointing at the moon.  Now, I didn’t come up with that on my own – I don’t know much about philosophy (about all I learned from the one philosophy course I took in college was the very valuable lesson that it’s less important to provide a correct answer than it is to provide the answer the instructor wants).  No, I got the Buddha thing from none other than The Dude, or His Dudeness, or The Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.  That is, the actor who made The Dude famous, Jeff Bridges.  In the foreword to the book I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life,The Big Lebowski, and What-Have-You, the actor wrote [emphasis and brackets mine]:

“I often take these little walks in the evening at sunset and listen to different things.  Recently I played some Alan Watts [a British philosopher], and it reminded me of my conversation with Bernie [Glassman, founder of Zen Peacemakers] and how Zen relates to Lebowski.  Watts says, ‘The whole art of poetry is to say what can’t be said.’  I suppose that’s true for any art, including filmmaking.  He goes on to say that ‘Every poet, every artist feels when he gets to the end of his work, that there is something absolutely essential that was left out, so Zen has always described itself as a finger pointing at the moon.’  The Big Lebowski is a lot like that.

“The guys who wrote this book say the Coens [the writers, director and producer of The Big Lebowski] have kept clear of them entirely, and that tickles me.  Like all of you reading this, I’d be interested to know what the Coen brothers think, but it’s kind of beautiful that they don’t want to say anything definitive.  Let ‘em be the pointing finger.”

So that’s kind of how I view Bull Runnings.  I’ll give my opinion and analysis on the blog part of this site.  But for now let the Bull Run Resources section serve as a pointing finger.  Depending on who explores the data, why, how, and in what order, the story will be different.  To me, that’s what really distinguishes digital history from traditional narrative.  And perhaps what makes it more like real life.

More on poetry and digital history later.

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Family Ties – Kilpatrick Part V

15 10 2008

Here’s an update to the Kilpatrick Family Ties series.  I found this site the other day, which has confirmed some of the information I already had and also alerted me to a few other tidbits.  To quote the Dude: Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous, lotta strands to keep in my head, man.

You’ll notice some stuff that expands a bit on Part II and Part III.  I found it really interesting that Kilpatrick granddaughter Consuelo Morgan’s husband Benjamin’s father, Benjamin Thaw, Sr, Harry K.’s half brother, was married to a woman named Elma Ellsworth Dows, born in October, 1861.  Elmer Ellsworth, the first Colonel of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves, was one of the war’s first martyrs (see here), and there was a multitude of babies born across the North in following years named for him.  This is the first time I’ve run across what appears to be a female namesake!

You’ll also see that Consuelo is buried in the Thaw plot in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery.  I didn’t notice her grave when I made my trek there (see here), and didn’t think to look for her because she remarried after the death of Benjamin Thaw, Jr.  It turns out that she is buried not far from her other grandfather, Philip Hicky Morgan.  I guess I need to go back there.

The site has lots of interesting stuff about the Thaws that I didn’t know – though you can probably fill a thimble with the stuff I do know about them.  For instance, the family supplied two aviators to the American forces in WWI, one of whom died in action.  It seems a shame they’re remembered almost exclusively for nutcase Harry Kendall Thaw – of Pittsburgh.





Bull Run MOH and Other Stuff

7 02 2008

 

mary-walker.jpgI ran across a news article that mentioned Dr. Mary Walker (left), the only female winner of the Medal of Honor.  She was awarded it for her performance at Bull Run.  Later it was taken away, and even later it was given back.

As I said, I’ll be adding MOH sketches to this site.  I’ve also decided to add Bull Run articles from the Southern Historical Society Papers.  I have them in digital format on my OR superdisk, so it won’t be too difficult.  Now, if I could just find someone with an index to the National Tribune and access to the Bull Run related articles, I could post those, too.

I’ve made about as much progress on the O’Rorke letter as I’ll likely make.  I’ll type it up and get it posted here as well…it will be the first Personal Correspondence I’ll put up.dude.jpg

I’ve also been thinking more about what this blog is all about.  It has something to do with poetry and Buddhism, or rather Dudism, as expressed not by the Dude, but by the one who made him.  It’s in the formative stages, to be firmed up either when I’m in the shower or on the elliptical.





Taking Hits

22 02 2007

walter-sobchak.jpg

 

You can see it at the bottom of the right hand column of this page, under Blog Stats:  Hits.  That’s the number of people who have visited this blog.  Each day, starting for some reason at 7:00 PM eastern time, WordPress counts the number of individual IP addresses that view Bull Runnings.  It counts each address only once, and of course does not count mine.  Each day the slate is wiped clean, and each address can again be counted once.  The number you see is the total of the daily counts since I started this blog last November.

Hit counts are but one of a number of tools provided by WordPress to help give a blogger an idea of how his site is being used.  But hits is the biggie.  Despite my frequent self-admonishments that the success of this site can not be quantified, my impressions trend with the number of hits.  This is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I have no idea what represents a good or respectable hit count.

A friend told me when I started out that I shouldn’t be too concerned with the numbers.  I totally agree, theoretically.  In practice, I think I am not very like the Buddha.  As Walter Sobchak (pictured above) might say, I’m being very un-Dude.  (In the unlikely event you are unfamiliar with The Greatest Movie Ever Made, Walter is John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski; The Dude is Jeff Bridges.)  I find myself a willing slave to the stats.  In fact, I have set the WordPress icon on my Windows toolbar to take me straight to my blog stats page.

The same friend also told me, quite accurately, that blog hits are very much a “what have you done for me lately” thing.  If folks have a reasonable expectation of finding something new on your site when they visit, they tend to visit more often.

I’ve noticed also that more people are viewing my “feed”.  I’m not really sure how all that stuff works, to tell you the truth.  Feeds remove all the pretty stuff from a blog, essentially making all of them look alike.  Feeds are the great equalizer in Blogland, creating a world not unlike that presented in one of the chapters of the Kilgore Trout novel Venus on the Half Shell, a world in which the quest for social equality reduced everything and everyone to the lowest common denominator.

I need to fight the tendency to let the numbers dictate the content and number of posts I make.  I do, to some extent.  Otherwise you would have seen many more articles on Peyton Manning.  But I need to learn to abide.  Like The Dude. 

 

dude.jpg

 

 








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